Office of the Future? One size does NOT fit all

This past year has turned our idea of the workplace inside out, upside down, and cattywampus. While many look at this year as productivity lost or teamwork put on pause, there’s also much to be gained from rethinking the idea of the workplace. Are people really most productive while sitting in their cubicle all day—sans distractions? Distractions happen wherever you are. Distractions used to be colleagues talking about fantasy football picks, latest cat photos, or extended group lunches. Now distractions are crying babies, Instacart deliveries, or unstable Zoom connections. There is no evidence that productivity suffers if not in the office. 

Workplace should mean just that, the place in which you do your work. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a cubicle, your kid’s room that has the best Wi-Fi, a Starbucks patio, or on a conference call in line for a COVID-19 test.  The pandemic has forced most of us to figure out where we get our BEST work done. 

As this fantastic article mentions, organizations must shift from “who” should be in an office to “what” should happen in a shared space. Client phone calls, creative brainstorming, cold calling, brief writing, Excel spreadsheeting—as we reimagine what the workplace is, let’s focus more on the quality of work and less on where the work is being done. Technology has allowed us to rewrite the entire premise of the office. As we move into a new year—and a continuously morphing workplace—management skills, competency assessments, and performance reviews must evolve to match.

Business up top, pajamas on the bottom!

By Lisa Aggarwal

I really thought that I was prepared.  

As a Catholic school student, I endured endless detention threats regarding dress code violations. As an HR professional, I have mediated endless dress code disputes. I’ve coached clients on how to appear more professional via their attire. Corporate offices were previously “business casual,” now they are “CASUAL casual.” It seems that so much of our culture is linked to our external appearance. We are even taught to dress for the role we seek. I thought I had nailed how to dress for success. 

But this is a new day. Just as Chicago has issued a new stay-at-home advisory for the next 30 days in response to rising Covid-19 cases, I get hit with these two articles. On the same day, within five minutes. 

We know that video conferences and remote work have opened a gateway to a more casual corporate uniform–but are sweatsuits the new power suit? Sometimes I will throw a blazer on to give the impression I mean business (all while wearing my yoga pants)…but now I need one with shoulder pads? Maybe I should just keep a “Zoom shirt” in my office (by office, I mean kitchen) for video conferences and call it a day. Hopefully I don’t end up like one of my countless friends who accidentally have stood up during an online meeting only to expose their pajama bottoms. 

Today, it seems that most of us are just seeking comfort, in any form. Perhaps this will cause a subliminal shift to pay less attention to external appearance and more to an employee’s value and contribution. Or one can only hope!

How has your business handled dress codes, or lack thereof? 

It wasn’t all hot air

It wasn’t all hot air

It wasn’t all hot air-2

A deflated basketball sat on Coach’s desk to remind every player that basketball glory could be fleeting; they were one injury away from having to pivot from the sport. If they had nothing else, then what? 

When I started college, I couldn’t have imagined that one of the greatest teachers would be a professor I never had, nor a subject I never studied. It is easy to forget that in 1982, college basketball was still a local sport. No ESPN, no CBS Sports. All I knew was that Georgetown had a basketball team, and I heard that they had a strong coach. 

No talented young man was going to go play for Big John unless they were willing to play by his rules. They were going to be a student-athlete, emphasis on the student. They sat in the front row in class; not always convenient for the rest of us. They didn’t miss class; not unless they wanted a 5:00 am practice the next day! Study hall and tutors were not optional. The discipline he expected off the court could be summed up by why he never wanted his Freshman talking to the press: “[these are] dumb college kids.” Not pejorative, but realistic. In the early to mid-1980s, many outside of the Georgetown community were skeptical of Thompson’s tactics, but Coach Thompson had a longer-term strategy; he was building a culture.

“I don’t coach their team,” Mr. Thompson famously declared, “They play on my team.” 

After a sports injury, I saw this culture first-hand in the training rooms of Georgetown Athletics.  I observed many examples of how Coach’s expectations of his players meant that they treated others with dignity and respect. One example especially stands out:  One day postseason, I witnessed a 7 foot player cower when the 5’ 7” female trainer told him he wasn’t working hard enough. He respected her authority and expertise–and got back to work. 

In 1994, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote a book called Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. One aspect that the authors highlighted was that organizations with strong corporate cultures had higher returns.  I have seen this time and time again in business, and one of the first places I had seen it work well was with John Thompson’s Hoyas. The management term for this is self-selection. When you create, build, and sustain a strong culture, you typically only attract those that want to be a part of that culture. In turn, they succeed in that culture; and therefore, continue to sustain it. 

Coach Thompson built that culture and success followed. Georgetown won an NCAA championship under Big John. While some players made it to the NBA, others went on to successful non-sports related careers and lives. That’s because Coach understood that playing basketball was part of the journey, not always the destination. His job was to accompany the young men along this journey and create success not just on the court, but for the rest of their lives. 

In college, I never imagined a career path in Management or Human Resources. I had no idea that these players and coaches I watched would become powerful examples of good leadership. This week, I have been stunned by all the articles and commentary about Coach; it is amazing to see how far and wide his influence stretched. While others continue to herald all that John Thompson, Jr. did for the game, the players, and the hearts (and heart attacks!) of fans, I will personally always hold the coach in high esteem for the management lessons he was teaching me—without me even realizing it. 

After all, I was just a dumb college kid, what did I know?  Read More Here

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Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Every last one of us is experiencing COVID-19 Fatigue, and we’ve only been at this eight months.

A year ago I was in Australia for Remembrance Day.  When I realized I would be there on the 11th of November, I knew where I had to be at 11 am. At the Cenotaph in Sydney, an older female veteran caught my attention, medals and all.

I first became aware of the outsized sacrifice of Australian and New Zealanders (ANZACs) in WWI, when I heard a folk song called “The Band played Waltzing Matilda.”

What the soldiers had to deal with when they came home in 1919? A pandemic. A year ago, I nodded in historic empathy, “Imagine, after nearly four years of war, all that sacrifice, for a small nation of 4.5 million when war broke out.” Nearly 62,000 soldiers died, to then come home and have an additional 15,000 people die from a pandemic? 

It is November 11th again. We want to complain about pandemic exhaustion, but what we label exhaustion will never begin to compare to those that survived WWI only to battle through the 1918-1919 pandemic. We may go to war for the last roll of toilet paper, or battle with our loved ones to stay in or wear masks, but in the face of true sacrifice, it truly dims.